The flock of hawks

The flock of hawks

: Reason’s Tim Cavanaugh breaks out his arsenal and shoots at the liberal hawks — listing me — who aren’t voting for Bush.

One of the most dramatic and least surprising developments of Election 2004’s final period has been President Bush’s abandonment by the “liberal hawks,” the collection of left-leaning thinkers, commentators, and pundits who approved of the invasion of Iraq as a progressive operation, offered well reasoned and often enthusiastic support for Bush in the prelude to the war, were granted their wish by the White House, and have now paid the president back with withering criticism and endorsements for John Kerry.

Anybody seeking to prove the Kerryan criticism that George W. Bush doesn’t know how to build an alliance need look no further than the pan-ideological coalition he built right here at home. In the heat of battle, when their support was most important, the liberal hawks broke ranks and fled the battlefield. Nor will they acknowledge having betrayed the president who gave them what they claimed to wish for: In the minds of the liberal hawks, it is Bush who has betrayed their grand ideals with his “mismanagement” of the postwar situation.

He makes a few flawed assumptions: First and foremost that Iraq is the only issue that makes us decide our vote; it isn’t. Second, that criticizing any administration’s execution on any issue is an abandonment; welcome to a world of grays.

He argues that we liberal hawks can’t complain about inadequate force in Iraq because that gives lie to our contention that the real reason to go into Iraq was to establish democracy and that Iraqis were ready and eager for the right to run their nation.

If keeping Iraq on life support meant committing a vast occupying force indefinitely, then clearly Iraq wasn’t a very good test case for the democratic experiment.

That’s clearly a crock and too glib by half. Every nation on earth is ready for democracy but they can be thwarted by tyrants and terrorists and Iraq has been the victim of both.

Then Cavanaugh argues:

More than that, the liberal hawks must consider the very real possibility that what is happening today in Iraq is not an unforeseeable disaster but the best outcome any reasonable person could have expected.

He has a point. It is anybody’s guess. But I think we made the wrong guess about the terrorists (“insurgents” in some dictionaries) who would do — no, are doing — anything to stop freedom and democracy from rising in Iraq. Fine. Anybody could guess wrong. But the problem is that we haven’t admitted that mistake and worked hard to fix it. Am I worried about Iraq? Absolutely. I don’t think we had a great choice here: Bush lacks the ability to fix the mistake; Kerry lacks the will. But both men do know that they cannot fail at this and I believe — hope and pray — that either will do their best to make better guesses going forward.

I hope Tom Friedman — the liberal hawk who truly did retreat from the policy he helped establish and justify — was wrong when he said on Bill Maher this weekend that either candidate will get us out of Iraq in less than a year. That is the abandonment that matters — not of Bush but of the Iraqi people.